Lots of interesting books out this week, so let’s go ahead and dive right in.
Here are the new releases I’m excited about for Feb 26, 2013:
The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult; Atria; 480 pages
May as well start off with the heavy hitter of the week. Sure to be another NYT bestseller, Picoult sets her experienced eye on guilt, redemption, and forgiveness in this complex tale about a small town hero’s gruesome past and complicated present.
Sage Singer befriends an old man who’s particularly beloved in her community. Josef Weber is everyone’s favorite retired teacher and Little League coach. They strike up a friendship at the bakery where Sage works. One day he asks Sage for a favor: to kill him. Shocked, Sage refuses…and then he confesses his darkest secret – he deserves to die, because he was a Nazi SS guard. Complicating the matter? Sage’s grandmother is a Holocaust survivor.
What do you do when evil lives next door? Can someone who’s committed a truly heinous act ever atone for it with subsequent good behavior? Should you offer forgiveness to someone if you aren’t the party who was wronged? And most of all – if Sage even considers his request – is it murder, or justice?
Benediction by Kent Haruf; Knopf; 272 pages
Haruf is at it again, bringing us another story from his beloved fictional town of Holt, Colorado (where his previous books, Plainsong and Eventide, take place). This time we deal with Dad Lewis’ impending death along with a slew of other characters dealing with the trials of life.
When Dad Lewis is diagnosed with terminal cancer, he and his wife must work together, along with their daughter, to make his final days as comfortable as possible, despite the bitter absence of their estranged son. Next door, a young girl moves in with her grandmother and contends with the memories that Dad’s condition stirs up of her own mother’s death. A newly arrived preacher attempts to mend his strained relationships with his wife and son, and soon faces the disdain of his congregation when he offers more than they are used to getting on Sunday mornings. And throughout, an elderly widow and her middle-aged daughter do all they can to ease the pain of their friends and neighbors
A History of Future Cities by Daniel Brook; W.W. Norton & Company; 352 pages
This one is peculiar, but in a very good way. Brook really takes a step out of the ordinary here as he investigates the planning, building, and production of cities created with the intention to look and feel like other, already successful, urban areas. Coming in at a very reasonable 352 pages, this has the promise to be a non-fiction book that doesn’t endlessly blather on.
On May 27, 1703, Tsar Peter the Great founded a new capital on a barren Baltic marsh. Modeled on Amsterdam, he believed it would erase Russian backwardness and usher in a modernized, Westernized future. In the nineteenth-century Age of Imperialism, the British rebuilt Bombay as a tropical London, while three Western powers made Shanghai look just like home. And in our own time, the sheikh of Dubai has endeavored to transform his desert city into a Vegas-esque skyscraper-studded global hub. The cultural and historical threads that connect these cities and their conflicted embrace of modernity are brought into relief in Daniel Brook s captivating mix of history and reportage a story of architects and authoritarians, artists and revolutionaries who take these facsimiles of the West and turn them into crucibles of non-Western modernity. A History of Future Cities is both a crucial reminder of globalization s long march and an inspiring look into the possibilities of our Asian Century.
With or Without You by Domenica Ruta; Random House; 224 pages
More than just your run-of-the-mill distressing childhood memoir, Domenica Ruta’s first book is being hyped as a debut author’s introduction to publishing rather than a one-shot tale of childhood disaster. You might have read some memoirs with similar content, but you won’t have read one that is so well-written.
Domenica Ruta grew up in Danvers, Massachusetts, in a ramshackle, rundown, trash-filled house with her mother, a drug dealer and user who raised Domenica on a steady diet of Oxycontin. Growing up, Domenica knew she didn’t fit in-she was far smarter and worse dressed than everyone else she knew, and she clearly had the most flamboyant mother of anyone in town-but she found solace in writing and reading. As she grew older, though, and as her mother’s behavior grew increasingly outrageous and her home life increasingly untenable, Domenica fled Danvers only to become ensnared by the demons of addiction. A thoroughly textured and masterfully written book, layered with wildly colorful characters, a biting sense of humor, and penetrating, deeply sympathetic insights, With or Without You finally ends with Domenica’s increasing awareness that she must leave the life she grew up with in order to survive.
Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made by Stephan Pastis; Candlewick Press; 304 pages
On a more light-hearted note comes a new middle-grade series by cartoonist Stephan Pastis. Timmy Failure’s name says it all and if you can’t laugh along with this awkward, unpolished protagonist…well, then you might not have a funny-bone left.
Take eleven-year-old Timmy Failure — the clueless, comically self-confident CEO of the best detective agency in town, perhaps even the nation. Add his impressively lazy business partner, a very large polar bear named Total. Throw in the Failuremobile — Timmy’s mom’s Segway — and what you have is Total Failure, Inc., a global enterprise destined to make Timmy so rich his mother won’t have to stress out about the bills anymore. Of course, Timmy’s plan does not include the four-foot-tall female whose name shall not be uttered. And it doesn’t include Rollo Tookus, who is so obsessed with getting into “Stanfurd” that he can’t carry out a no-brainer spy mission. From the offbeat creator of Pearls Before Swine comes an endearingly bumbling hero in a caper whose peerless hilarity is accompanied by a whodunit twist. With perfectly paced visual humor, Stephan Pastis gets you snorting with laughter, then slyly carries the joke a beat further — or sweetens it with an unexpected poignant moment — making this a comics-inspired story (the first in a new series) that truly stands apart from the pack.